Richard Horn, author of EncyclopediaThe late Richard Horn, author of the novel titled Encyclopedia. / courtesy Richard Schober

Tough Poets Press, founded, owned and operated solely by Richard Schober of Arlington, is about to release its 50th book since its founding in early 2015: a reissue of Encyclopedia, from 1969, by the late Richard Horn. The press has previously republished many new editions of novels -- some by well-known authors, some not -- and is a small independent publisher of new and rediscovered unconventional and neglected literary fiction, poetry and nonfiction.

"I'm running a Kickstarter now to help cover the costs of producing this new edition," Schober told YourArlington. Details are here >>

The Kickstarter description calls Encyclopedia a "comical literary oddity" that was Horn's only published novel. The unconventionally structured book garnered good reviews from major newspapers upon original publication by Grove Press more than half-a-century ago but has since lapsed into obscurity.

As of mid-November, the project had found 149 backers and from them raised more than $3,000 -- more than enough to complete publication of the relatively short (168-page) paperback book. The crowdfunding effort can accept additional backers through Nov. 25, and publication is expected in January 2023, Schober wrote in an email interview.

"There is no limit to the number of Kickstarter backers. Once the book is officially published, it will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble's website, and many more online sites. All the books I publish are print-on-demand, so, theoretically, they will never go out of print," he wrote.

The Kickstarter description relates that after an extended search to obtain the rights, Schober finally was able to reach the late author's daughter, who granted him permission to reissue the book. The project description further says that Horn died in August 1973 at only 30 years old and that the cause of death was never fully investigated.

"I'm a big fan of neglected literature from forgotten novelists, especially from the 1960s and 1970s -- the more offbeat and experimental, the better," he wrote. "I've known about this book for a long time, and it was only recently that I was able to track down the author's daughter, who is the executor of his estate, to get her permission to put out this edition."

Tough Poets Press founder Richard SchoberTough Poets Press founder Richard Schober. /courtesy Richard Schober

Crowdfunding: a successful business model

The Kickstarter page says that of the 49 books Schober has already published, 44 were crowdfunded. 

Schober's entrepreneurship was described in a November 2019 article in Publishers Weekly titled "The One-Man Press Resuscitating Forgotten Classics."  His work also has been mentioned favorably on literature-oriented blogs Inchoatia, Alta and Please Kill Me.

Tough Poets Press on its website shows 10 books published this year alone.

"Between 2015 and 2019, I was putting out anywhere between one and five books a year," Schober wtote. "In late 2019, I was laid off from my 'real' job as a web designer, and then the pandemic hit, so I've had plenty of time to work on books since, and now I'm averaging about 10 a year. I've already got five books ready for publication next year -- and agreements with authors or estates for a few more."

Schober realized that he had the time, the interest, the background and the skills to create a different and fulfilling part-time career for himself. "I was an English major in college," he wote, "so I always liked literature, and I collect a lot of vintage paperbacks, too. What really got me into the publishing business was my background as a graphic designer. I always wanted to design books and book covers, but it's a very competitive field. When I realized that nobody was going to hire me to do that kind of work, I decided to start my own publishing company."

The current Kickstarter effort, already sucessful, could become even more so between now and Thanksgiving. "Anything raised over the [already achieved minimum] Kickstarter [dollar] goal will go towards printing and shipping the additional copies over the 124 minimum, additional royalties to the author's estate and profit for me," he explained. 

Academia, radio, rock 'n' roll

The 1975 Arlington High School graduate earned his bachelor of arts degree in English from UMass./Amherst in 1979. His interests later included music: "Back in the late 1980s and 1990s, I was in a band, and Tough Poets was a name that a friend suggested, although we didn't use it."

The band was based in Somerville, where Schober resided at the time. "My band, The Dislocated Hipsters, was around for just a few years, maybe from 1989 to 1992. We played rockabilly and '60s-styled original songs. I played bass guitar, wrote most of the songs and sang lead -- not very well, I'll admit -- on most of them. We only played live twice but got a decent amount of airplay on local college and alternative radio stations."

His musical involvement since then has consisted of having been a volunteer disk jockey at WMFO, Tuft University's radio station, for a few years until earlier this year, with a Sunday morning show.

His former band background eventually played into his later ambitions. "When it came time to name my publishing company, I figured [that the previously suggested moniker] was perfect, especially since the first book I was working on was a collection of interviews with the Beat Generation poet Gregory Corso, who spent time in prison as a youth for theft. Now he was definitely a tough poet. There's also a line in a novel by Haruki Murakami, another writer whose work I enjoy, that says: 'Surely the world's got to have tough poets too.'" 

Publishing processes, future goals

Most but by no means all of his projects consists of reissuing previously published works.

In the case of the former, "Every word in the original editions is there," Schober said. "No changes are made except for fixing any typos that were missed the first time the books were published. Some of the reissues have additional material: a new introduction, an interview with the author, etc."

The covers, however, tend to be new. "I've designed new covers for most of the books. I've only used the original covers, or recreations of the original covers, a few times."

He also publishes some previously unpublished works by known authors -- and, very rarely, submissions by emerging writers.

"I probably get 20 or 30 unsolicited manuscripts emailed to me each year, and, occasionally, one or two will stand out, so I will publish them," he noted. "Also, I've put out some collections of older, previously unpublished works -- three volumes of Medford native and National Book Award nominee Alexander Theroux's short stories, three volumes of Marvin Cohen's stories and poems, a previously unpublished novel by Donald Newlove."

Schober hopes to put out product at an accelerated rate going forward. "I plan on publishing books as long as I can, and a book a month is my goal," he said. "I hope to someday make publishing my full-time job, but [until then] I do some part-time freelance graphic and web design work to bring in a steady paycheck."  

March 4, 2020: Arlington press publishes Nobel Prize winner's novel

This news feature was published Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, based primarily on information from Arlington resident Richard Schober of Tough Poets Press.